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Mongolians vote for president amid graft, financial concerns

28 June 2017

Ulaanbaatar: There was no outright victor in Mongolia's presidential election on Monday, forcing the country's first ever second-round run-off between the two leading candidates, the country's General Election Committee said on Tuesday.

Khaltmaa Battulga of the Democratic Party had a clear lead but less than the required 50 per cent of the 1.3 million votes cast Monday to avoid a runoff, the General Election Commission said.

He will face ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP) candidate Miyeegombo Enkhbold, who came second, in a run-off on July 9, the committee's chairman Choinzon Tsodnomtseren confirmed at a briefing on Tuesday morning.

"We should recount it, otherwise we lose our democracy", Sainkhuu Ganbaatar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) told AFP.

The result of Monday's vote was put off by several hours, angering supporters of the losing candidate who protested the delay as suspicious.

While Parliament controls Mongolia's government, the president serves as commander-in-chief, can veto legislation and is also responsible for appointing key officials.

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In the parliamentary electoral process, held a year ago, social democrats won control of the Parliament, while the outgoing president is conservative Tsakhia Elbegdorj.

The next president will inherit a $5.5 billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund and created to stabilise its economy and lessen dependence on China, which purchases 80 percent of Mongolian exports.

After the final districts were counted, Battulga emerged with 517,478 votes, 38.1 percent of the total, according to Mongolia's state television.

As the three presidential candidates show off their election platforms, all of them have promised to draw out the country from its present situation, and are promising to restore the economy its earlier prosperous and thriving status.

Battulga's company, Genco, is one of Mongolia's largest, with businesses including hotels, media, banking, alcohol, horsemeat and a Genghis Khan-themed complex.

Around two-thirds of almost two million registered voters cast ballots, the election commission said.

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"The most important issues to me are the country's prosperity, the people's prosperity, and pollution", he said near a polling booth in a yurt outside Ulaanbaatar.

A huge drop in foreign investment and decline in commodities prices have particularly strained the economy, a situation not helped by a long dispute with mining giant Rio Tinto over its operations in the country. It now has $23 billion in debt, more than double the size of its economy.

"I made my choice based on my beliefs and hopes", said Dangaa, who favored Enkhbold.

Battulga has a large following among urban entrepreneurs and youth.

"I don't like corruption and favoritism, which is prevalent everywhere in all levels of Mongolian government".

"Ganbaatar is the only one who speaks the voice of the regular people of Mongolia", said Zundui Gombojav, a 60-year-old unemployed disabled man.

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Daram Erdebayar, a 61-year-old retired teacher, had previously been loyal to the MPP, but chose to support Battulga after a recording surfaced in which Enkhbold and other MPP officials were allegedly discussing a plan to hand public jobs to the highest bidders.

Mongolians vote for president amid graft, financial concerns